The Rule of Thirds is a compositional rule in photography and other visual arts. The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph. This aligning of a photograph’s subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the subject would. However, like the Pirate’s Code, the Rule of Thirds is more like a guideline than an actual rule.
Above is a photograph of Off Kilter’s Bassist, Mark Weldon, entertaining guests at Walt Disney World’s Canadian pavilion, where I am showing you how the Rule of Thirds applies. (Note, it’s not exact as I hand drew in the lines but it’s close enough for our purposes.) Notice in three of the four intersections there are strong subjects close by: Mark’s tilted head in the upper left and both his hands in the lower two. The intersection points are called Power Points.
Another popular mistake people make is putting the horizon right in the middle of their picture. Effectively dissecting the image in two. You should try to put the horizon at either the upper or lower third of your viewfinder when composing. That way you emphasize either the sky or the land.
In this sunset photo, the person is standing in the middle of the frame and the photo doesn’t seem to fit the Rule of Thirds. Ah, but it does! The person is along the lower third of the frame while the water and sky fill the upper two thirds.
By practicing the Rule of Thirds, you’ll find yourself thinking a bit before pressing the shutter. Recomposing in the viewfinder or retaking an image after looking at the photo you just took. The fun of digital photography is how easy and fast it is to learn to take better pictures. Another fun project is to review past photos which you thought were okay, crop them using the Rule of Thirds and see, if by doing so, makes them better.
Here are some more examples: